How to Bring Summery Goodness to Your Bedroom

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Create a vacation vibe in your at-home sanctuary and you’ll be better able to recharge.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

With warmer evenings and sunlit mornings, summer begs us to take a more relaxed approach to life. That might mean a slower-paced schedule, a breezy wardrobe or a goal of keeping the house tidy. These eight rules can help you savor the season each day from the moment you rise and pull open the shades until you tuck into bed at night.

1. I will preserve time at the beginning and end of the day for quiet reflection.Even if it’s only five minutes spent sipping your first cup of coffee in the morning or herbal tea before bed, having a smidgen of dedicated me-time in the peace and privacy of your bedroom can bookend a frantic day, or bring satisfying closure to a pleasant one. Write in your journal, read an inspiring book, meditate or simply look out the window as you set intentions for the day ahead.

2. I will treat myself to extended weekend mornings in bed. If you’re a parent, finding a way to make this happen may be impossible at times, but the bliss of a morning in bed (read: at least 20 uninterrupted minutes with a fresh pot of coffee and your favorite publications) is worth whatever scheduling acrobatics it takes to arrange.

3. I will keep my wardrobe simple. Living out of a suitcase on vacation can seem carefree because you have fewer choices. Re-create that feeling at home by editing your wardrobe down to your most-loved and worn pieces, and stash away (or consign) the rest. While editing, keep in mind that the smaller the wardrobe, the more important it is that everything goes together. Stick with pieces that mix and match (such as colorful, patterned tops and solid, neutral bottoms) to maximize outfit-making potential.

4. I will decorate with reminders of summer. Surrounding yourself with visual reminders of what you love most about summer will make your bedroom feel more like a getaway. Try nautical maps, postcards from far-flung locales, snapshots taken on your last vacation, a bedspread bought in a seaside town, or shells and sea glass collected on the beach.

Set the Mood: 5 Colors for a Calming Bedroom

5. I will keep things clean and uncluttered. Putting away clothes and shoes each day isn’t a glamorous task, but the five minutes (or less!) of effort is well worth the calm atmosphere you will enjoy coming home to when everything is neatly put away. Need inspiration? Give your bedroom a makeover at the start of summer to motivate yourself to keep the space looking sharp.

How to Get a Half-Painted Wall Right

6. I will help overnight guests feel at home. When friends and family come to stay, a few special details are all it takes to make guests feel welcome and comfortable. Snip flowers from the garden for the bedside table, set out a selection of beach reads and make up the bed with light layers. Don’t have a spare quilt or even a guest bed? A tapestry (the sort pinned to dorm room walls) or even a large sarong can make a summery and budget-friendly bedspread, whether you’re covering a bed or an air mattress.

See the rest of this eclectic home

7. I will say yes to mermaids. Mermaids are equal parts kitschy and mysterious, making them the perfect motif for a summery bedroom. Plus, having something to collect makes shopping at your favorite flea markets and art fairs even more fun. Not into mermaids? Pick your own icon of summer, and start collecting.

8. I will let the stars guide me to bed. Can’t get away to that rustic lakeside cabin? Pretend you’re camping at home, and turn down the electric lights in favor of candles and lanterns a few hours before bedtime. You may be surprised at how this one simple change can make your home feel completely transformed, at least for the evening. Indulge in screen-free entertainment like playing cards or board games, and be sure to peek outside at the stars before retiring to your room.

Tell us: What is your favorite summer tradition? Share it with the Houzz community in the Comments!

The Rules of Summer: Kitchen Edition
Genius Home Prep: A Guest Room in a Box
Key Measurements to Help You Design Your Dream Bedroom

Related Reads
Keep a Journal and a Book on a New Nightstand
Nautical Themed Quilts for Your Bed
Dreamy Star-Like Lighting for a Cabin Feel



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Purge Your Home of These 9 Things Before You Move


A new home means a fresh start: new paint, a new bedroom, even a fresh take on arranging your old furniture.

But your new space won’t feel so wonderful if it’s weighed down with junk you didn’t bother ditching during the move. Now’s the time to purge your home—and we’re not talking about just sifting through stacks of magazines while you binge on Netflix.

“Your possessions should have three purposes: function, aesthetic purpose, or sentimental value,” says Christina Giaquinto, a professional organizer in Franklin Lakes, NJ. “Pick up each item in your home, and ask yourself, ‘Why do I have this item? What does this item do for me?'”

From doodads you picked up at the flea market to jewelry you never wear to a pile of untouched cat toys, there are a lot of things you should toss or donate before packing up the truck. But here are nine of the most common offenders.

1. Old towels and linens

When’s the last time you bought new towels? If it’s the last time you moved, turn those suckers into rags and buy something new. After years of use and hundreds of washings, there’s no denying your fluffy bath towels have lost some of their plushness.

Ditch old bed sheets, too. Fitted sheets lose their elasticity over time, and exposure to sweat and oil can cause unpleasant stains.

2. Your juicer

It was a nice thought, but c'mon!
It was a nice thought, but c’mon!DeRepente/iStock

We all have goals. Running three times a week. Cleaning every Sunday. And starting each morning with a glass of cold juice pressed from spinach, kale, ginger, and pineapple.

Don’t give up on achieving your dreams—but if you’ve tried to make a change and found it didn’t work with your lifestyle, don’t hang on to the dregs of disappointment. Maybe getting up a half-hour early every morning to juice isn’t for you. Assess your achievements at moving time, and donate everything that didn’t work out. At least you’ll have room for your next wild aspiration. Perhaps a set of dumbbells?

3. Unworn clothes

Organizing a closet before a move should be simple. A keep pile, a toss pile, and a donate pile—right? But we all have those jeans we keep around just in case we finally lose 15 pounds. Or a dress tucked deep in your closet in case you ever go clubbing again. (Never mind that the last time you were out of the house after 10 p.m. was the night your first child was born.)

Watch out for clothing you’re keeping “just in case,” which take up precious room in your closet. And even if you do lose the weight, or get an invitation to a bachelorette party in Vegas, you can always buy (or rent) something new—and we bet you’ll love it even more.

4. Duplicates and souvenirs

Clutter accrues in the strangest places—like your mug tree or your dining hutch. You might have started out with two novelty mugs, but now you own a coffee cup from every place you’ve visited. Ever.

“Try to keep only one from your favorite vacation,” Giaquinto says.

Look for duplicates throughout your kitchen. Do you really need three bread pans? Or more than one cake platter?

“You should only hold on to what can fit neatly in your space,”  Giaquinto says.

5. Collections you’ve outgrown

Let it go, let it go, let it go...
Let it go, let it go, let it go…zoranm/iStock

One day, many moons ago, you told your mom you liked elephants. You were 12.

Your next birthday: an elephant necklace. Your graduation gift: a porcelain elephant statuette. Your housewarming gift from your aunt: an Etsy elephant print.

It’s too late to convince everyone you’re not a loxodonta-phile, but it’s not too late to trim down your collection. And when Mom stops by and looks confused, just say, “I had to. I couldn’t fit it into our new space.”

6. Cosmetics and toiletries

Like most things in life, skin and beauty products don’t last forever. So before you move, ditch the pile of half-used products you’ve amassed under your bathroom sink; that goes for skin creams, sunscreens, shaving cream, beard oils, deodorant, and even soap.

Ladies—make sure to toss the nail polish.That stuff has a shelf life of only two years, meaning you’ll likely never finish a bottle before the polish gets gunky and hard to apply.

Same goes for cosmetics: For example, you should replace your favorite mascara every three months. Otherwise, you risk exposing your eye to contaminants and air particles.

7. Space fillers

Sometimes, when moving into a new home, we buy stuff just to fill the emptiness. Ugly side tables, a TV stand three shades darker than the rest of your furniture, or that annoying inspirational wall art that’s long past being cool (if it ever was).

Your next home doesn’t need to be a blank slate, but do yourself a favor before moving in by ditching furniture and decor you’re “meh” on. And next time, buy slowly and ponder exactly what you want before plunking down cash.

8. Cords and cables

You don’t know how it happened, but suddenly you have 34 micro-USB cables and seven random charging cables that seemingly belong to nothing and everything at the same time.

Save yourself from future headaches, and get rid of duplicates now—as well as anything that doesn’t have a match. And take advantage of the move to sort the remaining cords and cables into an organized system.

9. Paperwork

Go through all your old paperwork, setting aside documents you should keep (tax records, closing documents, recent bank statements) and ditching everything that’s no longer necessary—like old insurance policies. Create a filing system you’ll stick to, since that paperwork’s gonna keep coming, and promise yourself you’ll go back through everything once a year.

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10 Ways to Find Out About a Neighborhood Without Being There


“So what’s the neighborhood really like?” is the ubiquitous refrain among home buyers shopping in areas they’re unfamiliar with. And though your real estate agent can fill lots of the big-picture details, it pays to do your research before committing to a residential purchase.

Short of stopping people on the street for intel—and being greeted by strange, skittish looks, or way worse—there are some far easier ways to get a feel for what living in a neighborhood is really like.

Best of all, you can even do them from afar (you’re welcome, relocators)! For starters, you can get local information on various neighborhoods on our site. Then for more deets, get digging in the resources below.

For general demographics…

The first census required by the U.S. Constitution was completed in 1790, and U.S. Census Bureau workers have been counting the population—now more than 322 million people—every 10 years ever since. It’s all easily accessible, and you’d be amazed at the depth of detail. Their latest count, the 2010 Census, breaks down the nitty-gritty of age, race, population density, and even average commute times to work by neighborhood. The bureau’s maps also offer a graphic overview of select demographics.

For what’s notable and unique…

Type any address into NeighborhoodScout and its proprietary search algorithm provides a ton of data—median home price, crime rates, ease of commute—in one easy-to-digest snapshot. And beyond that, the site can tell you what makes a neighborhood unique. For instance, you may learn that a certain area has a high percentage of brownstones, or gay/lesbian families, or homeowners who don’t own cars.

For walkability …

Since “walkability” is such a buzzword, especially among millennials, it makes sense that there’s a site devoted to telling you how easy it is to get around by foot. That’s where Walk Score comes in. How easily you can you hoof it to a coffee shop, grocery shopping, and parks gets crunched into one overall rating showing how conducive an area is to walking. You say you’d rather spend your time getting around on two wheels instead of two feet? Bike Score gives you a sense of a neighborhood’s bike-friendliness from the extent of its bike lanes and trails.

For an idea of what a neighborhood stroll is like …

The free walking app Walc shows you what you’ll actually see on a jaunt, rather than the nondescript compass directions used for every other directional app. Simply enter a potential address into Walc, add a destination, and take a leisurely stroll in a neighborhood, without ever stepping foot on a street. You’ll get a sense of place from the landmarks that pop up: Do you turn right at an alehouse or a Pilates studio?

For public transportation access …

Each day, 35 million Americans use public transportation, making access to it a must for, well, at least 35 million people. To check out an area’s accessibility to trains, buses, and light rail, David Reiss, a professor of law and research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School, recommends researching the Transit Score. “These scores are great, really giving you a sense of how important it is to have a car in a particular community,” he says.

For school quality …

Sure, a seller may tell you a local school is great. But don’t rely on bias when it comes to your child’s education. Instead, go to the nonprofit and type in a potential ZIP code. You’ll have a chance to read school report cards crafted by reviews from teachers, parents, and even the students themselves. Or, if you already know which school district you want your child to attend, download’s mobile appyou can search for homes by school district. 

For crime rates…

To see how safe it would be to set foot outside your home, enter your address into My Local Crime to pull up any recent local crimes from vandalism to shootings. Click on the map function to see where exactly those crimes were committed (in other words, maybe certain blocks to avoid after dark?).

For the lay of the land, literally…

When Professor Reiss asked students to find interesting web resources to learn about neighborhoods, they discovered that topological maps are a cool tool. Most maps show only a two-dimensional rendering. Topographical maps, which add the third dimension of elevation, show the surface and physical features of a given neighborhood. Besides highlighting hills and valleys, topography is important when it comes to weather events (just ask anyone in a flood plain).

To find out what people do there for fun…

You know Yelp can help you discover local restaurants, and that Moviefone can let you know what theaters might be near you. But what about entertainment, culture and nightlife? Enter Gravy, a website and app that gives you the rundown on an area’s events, from rock concerts to church suppers.

To find a neighborhood just like the one you’re already in …

Love your neighborhood, but feel it’s time to move? Head back to NeighborhoodScout once more. Users can find their ideal neighborhood by selecting filters that take into account their lifestyle preferences—whether family-friendly or suitable for first-time home buyers. Alternatively, if you love your current neighborhood, enter your address to find comparable towns throughout the country.

Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.

Money Saving Energy Upgrades that Appeal to Buyers


Image result for pictures of saving energyImage result for pictures of saving energy

Money saving energy upgrades that appeal to buyers. Discover more home buying and selling tips.

Many sellers may shy away from renovating their homes before selling them in an effort to avoid spending unnecessary money. However, buyers today are often looking for energy-efficient amenities, which can be hard to come by in older homes. The good news is that energy-efficient updates don’t have to cost you much, and can help attract buyers in a competitive market. Here are a few home improvements you can make without spending a fortune.

Install Energy-Efficient Products and Features

Consider investing in energy-efficient products and features throughout your home such as a washer and dryer or refrigerator. These types of features can keep energy bills low and help owners manage their new homeowner costs. By purchasing these energy-efficient appliances, you may also save money on your own energy bills during the selling process and earn tax benefits after the purchase.

Replace Windows

Energy-efficient window replacements can also make a difference in attracting buyers and lowering utility bills. Windows are the first place many homeowners and energy auditors examine for leaks and cracks that can lead to higher energy bills.

Put in a New Furnace

Home heating costs can add up, and replacing old or damaged furnaces can be pricey. However, new, energy-efficient furnaces are becoming increasingly popular and more affordable. In fact, Energy Star furnaces add 16 percent more efficiency than traditional furnaces and can save owners up to $96 per year in costs.

It may be beneficial to conduct a home energy audit to determine where efficiency can be improved. This is a great way for you to pinpoint where in the home needs extra attention, energy wise.

You may also want to consider investing in a smart thermostat.  Smart thermostats learn the user’s habits and preferences with the ultimate goal of creating cost savings and comfort.

Keep your home cooler and greener with these window tips!

Click on link in blue below to see:

Ways to Save on Your Utilities at Home

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How Much Does Air Conditioning Cost? Plus: How to Save Money Running Your AC

 | Jun 28, 2017

How much does air conditioning cost? You might very well be wondering that right about now, given that the steamy weather all but demands you crank up your AC. Sure, it feels great, but you pay the price once your electric bill arrives. But how much should you expect that to be?

Of course, how much you pay will vary based on the climate where you live, the size of the home being cooled, how much you pay for power, and more. But here are some rules of thumb so you know approximately what to expect.


HVAC company Comfort Pro makes the following estimates based on a unit running 16 hours a day at a typical rate of $0.14 kilowatts from April through September:

  • Medium window unit (12,000 Btu) ideal for 450 to 550 square feet = $62/month
  • Large window unit (20,000 Btu) ideal for 1,000 to 1,200 square feet = $100/month
  • Central air conditioner (3,500 W) for a home over 1,200 square feet = $245/month

For a more accurate estimate, you can consult an HVAC specialist, who will factor in everything from ceiling height to whether your windows are oriented toward the sun (which can obviously heat a room fast). In fact, according to Chris Forbus of Choice Air Care, “the cost of an air-conditioning system is as customizable as your vehicle.”

Does it look like you’ll be spending a small fortune to cool your home this summer? Don’t panic, yet. There are a few things you can do to cut costs.

Get the right-sized air-conditioning system

The upfront cost could save you money over time.

“Make sure the size of your air-conditioning system is in proportion to your home,” says Richard Ciresi, owner of Aire Sev in Louisville, KY. “Too big, and it will cool faster than it dehumidifies. Too small, and your system will be constantly running and using energy.”

If you’re installing a new system, make sure your AC company measures your home and provides you with the best fit.

Reach for the stars

Energy Star units, that is. This designation indicates energy efficiency, which basically comes down to the fact that the unit uses less energy and costs less money to run. Energy Star units typically use 8% less energy and can save you at least $70 a year.

Install a high-efficiency filter

Even if you don’t have the dough to buy a new AC unit, installing a high-efficiency filter in your existing unit can work wonders on its own for a fraction of the price.

“Not only will this improve your home’s air quality, it will also help your AC equipment last longer,” says Forbus. “This will increase your upfront cost, but over time you’ll save money on maintenance costs.”

Use a programmable thermostat

You can program your thermostat so the house is warmer when you’re away at work, for example. Here’s how to install a thermostat.

Set the thermostat relative to the outdoor temperature

Of course, 60 degrees sounds delicious when it’s 90 degrees outside. But the truth is, even 75 will feel significantly cooler and cost much less to maintain. A good rule of thumb is to set your thermostat for 15 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. Narrowing that temperature difference by even a degree or two can save you a surprising amount, though. Depending on where you live, you could save 10% to 15% per degree on your energy bill.

Clean your filters and coils

Your AC works less efficiently when its filters are clogged and its coils are coated in dust and debris. So clean those coils and replace filters every month or two (or as needed) to keep air flowing freely.

Have your central air system inspected

Every spring, have an air-conditioning contractor inspect your air-conditioning system. This professional can fix any problems that will cost you more later, if neglected. The pro can also do that AC coil cleaning for you.

Make sure your home is well-insulated

Good insulation doesn’t just save your heating bill. It saves your cooling bill as well. Check the insulation for your home and your air-conditioning system. Make sure your windows are well-sealed so cool air isn’t leaking out. Here’s how to caulk windows and other cracks, and how to insulate an attic.

Keep your curtains closed

Don’t overlook this seemingly obvious tactic. Make a point of covering your windows as much as possible during the hotter parts of the day.

Check for tax breaks

Sure, a lot of these energy-efficient upgrades might cost money upfront, but in addition to saving you in the long run, the local and federal governments offer tax breaks for adding energy-efficient features to your home, including AC. You can search for your state’s tax credits and rebates at

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What Are Closing Costs?

Image result for pictures of closing cost and keys

What are closing costs? What should I know before getting my next loan?

What Are Closing Costs?

Closing costs are fees paid in connection with the refinance or transfer of ownership in real property. They are paid by either the buyer or the seller on the settlement date.

These fees will always vary. What you pay for one refinance or property transfer will not be the same as another. This is due to the different parties involved, different types and locations of property, the financial capacity of a buyer and many more factors.

The law requires lenders to give you a loan estimate within three days of receiving your application. This document sets out what your closing costs will be. These fees, however, are not set in stone and subject to change.

Your lender should provide a closing disclosure statement at least three business days before the closing date. This is a more reliable estimate of your closing costs. Compare it to the loan estimate you’ve received and ask your lender to explain the fees and the reasons for any changes.

What Is Included in Closing Costs?

Your costs will differ depending upon the transaction. Types of costs include:

  • Credit report fees (the cost of checking your credit record)
  • Loan origination fees (which consists of the cost to your lender for processing your loan)
  • Attorney fees
  • Inspection fees (for inspections requested by either you or the lender)
  • Appraisal fee
  • Survey fee (so that both you and the lender know where your property boundaries lie)
  • Escrow deposit which may cover private mortgage insurance and some property taxes
  • Pest inspection fee
  • Recording fee paid to a county or city authority to file a record of the property transfer and/or new mortgage lien against the property
  • Underwriting fee to cover the cost of processing a loan application
  • Discount points (money you pay your lender to get a lower interest rate)
  • Title insurance (protection for you and the lender should there be any issues with title to the property)
  • Title search fees (costs incurred by the company who checks the title on the property)

These fees can range anywhere from 2% to 5% of a property’s selling price. It’s smart to get estimates from two or three lenders so that you can take these costs into consideration before making an offer. For the easiest way to compare lenders who may use different terminology to describe their fees, simply ask for a loan estimate from each.


Can I Negotiate These Costs?

Some fees, such as document, processing, service, underwriting and courier charges are open to negotiation. However, third party fees such as an appraisal or survey, are not.

If you’re worried about how much you’ll need at closing you can find a bank that doesn’t escrow real estate and homeowners insurance. Often, banks will escrow six months of real estate taxes and several months of homeowners insurance premiums. When added to the other closing costs, this can be quite a large sum.

Keep in mind, however, that you will be responsible for paying your homeowners insurance and property taxes when they’re due rather than relying on your lender to pay them for you.

Where allowed by law, you can negotiate with the seller to have them pay some closing costs normally attributed to the buyer.

Can I Add my Closing Costs to the Loan?

Most loan programs will allow for a percentage of the purchase price to go towards closing costs. The easiest way to do this is to ask for a seller credit towards the closing costs.

The seller credit means that the seller will receive a smaller ‘net’ amount at closing, however there is a way to make a seller credit more palatable to the seller. If you can qualify for a higher purchase price – say 2.5% over list – the seller won’t lose any money and you can use the seller credit towards the closing costs.

In this scenario, what you’re doing is financing your closing costs over the life of the loan.

You can also do a lender credit. Like a no-cost refinance, you agree to a higher interest rate so that the lender will pay some of the closing costs. You can potentially get a lender credit of $2,000 to $4,000 – a sizeable amount of fees.

Keep in mind, however, that should you continue paying the same mortgage over the life of the loan, you could end paying more than if you were to pay up front.

What Can I Expect?

Before closing day arrives, contact your agent to confirm that he or she has everything for the transaction to go as smoothly as possible. Pull together any paperwork that you have received and keep it on hand for easy reference on closing day.

Be prepared to take your time reading through all of the closing documents. Make sure you completely understand all of the terms you’re agreeing to. If some of the terms are missing or incomplete, don’t sign until they are resolved to your satisfaction.

Your lender will send money to the closing agent via a wire transfer and may require that you set up a new escrow account with them to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance together with your monthly mortgage payment.

You should be advised before closing day how much money you’ll need to have for closing, so bring your checkbook with you to cover any necessary escrow and/or closing costs.

Among the many documents you’ll be signing, three of the most important documents will be the:

  • Hud-1 Settlement Statement – a document which sets out the costs incurred with your closing.
  • Deed of Trust or Mortgage – a document in which you agree to a lien being placed against your property as security for repayment of your loan.
  • Promissory Note – a document which can be described as a legal “IOU” which sets out your promise to pay according to the terms of the agreement.

For more information on the details of buying a house, visit our First Time Home Buyer section.

Thinking about buying your first home? Before you can unlock the door to homeownership, you have to take some important first steps. From finding the perfect location to financing your purchase, shopping for your first home has challenges that go beyond curb appeal and interior features.

Some of the important steps to homeownership include:

Getting approved for a mortgage.

Choosing the right real estate agent.

Finding the right home that fits your budget.

Find the best mortgage deal now. Compare mortgages.

It’s going to be a rough summer for many wanna-be homeowners, especially the first-timers.

Buyers are facing stiff competition and bidding wars in the real estate markets that clearly favor sellers.

But that doesn’t mean you should abandon your dreams of home ownership.

Here’s what real estate agents from across the country want first-time buyers to know:

Be realistic

You know those HGTV shows that make home buying look fun and super fast? The buyers only look at three houses, find their dream home and get an accepted offer within their budget, all on the same day. Yeah, that’s not how it works IRL.

“After seeing three homes, most buyers say, ‘wow, that is nothing that we want. We need to see more.'” said Alex Haried, a Redfin real estate agent in Chicago.

House hunting can be long, frustrating and exhausting. Open houses and home showings can take over your weekends and creep into your week nights, and checking for new listings online can become an obsession.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Experts recommended getting pre-approved by a lender before you officially start your search.

That can be a good starting point in figuring out what you can afford. But just because you were approved for a set amount doesn’t mean you have to spend that much. Creating a budget can help to determine how much money you’re comfortable spending each month.

Once you’ve figured out your ceiling, take the time to research the market to find out how far your budget will go.

“Get realistic about what your money can buy,” said Dana Bull, a real estate agent in Boston.

Related: How much house can you afford?

It can also be tempting for buyers to go above their budget when they fall in love with a house. But realtors say that can be a big mistake.

“I talk to them on a personal level,” said Stephanie Collins, a real estate agent in Denver. “I tell them, ‘If you want to be downtown where you can walk to restaurants, are you going to be in over your head with the mortgage? Will you be able to dine out?'”

Play it cool at the open house

You’ve finally found your dream house. It’s perfect and you start coming up with your offer.

Be cool.

It helps to establish contact with the seller’s agent to start a rapport, but oversharing can create problems.

“Some of my clients are bubbly, and I have to reel them in,” said Bull. “Don’t give the listing agent too much information, you never know what they will use to negotiate against you.”

Related: 4 things first-time homebuyers need to know

For instance, saying you’re relocating to the area for a new job or telling them your parents are helping with the some of the costs could make the agent nervous about your ability to secure financing.

“It’s almost like a job interview — buyers want to come off as easy to work with and that the process will be smooth and that they are going to get to the closing table.”

Be prepared for rejection

In many housing markets, sellers have the upper hand, which means competition is stiff — especially for first-time buyers.

“A lot of people don’t get their first offer accepted,” said Haried. Most of his first-time clients don’t make an offer until they’ve seen at least 15 homes.

While it hurts to get rejected, the process will get easier as time goes on.

Lay low once your offer is accepted

Once you have an accepted offer, your lender will start the underwriting process on your mortgage. Banks will scrutinize your finances and any big purchases might affect your qualification status. So lay off the credit cards, and don’t suddenly decide to quit your job.

Bruce Elliott, president of Orlando Regional Realtor Association, once had a client’s closing delayed over a $300 purchase.

“That purchase could push your debt-to-income level too high and you wont be able to close,” he said.

Are you buying or selling a home? We want to hear your experience. Email us and you may be featured in an upcoming story.

3 Summer Tablescapes as Easy as They Are Impressive

You’ve got your barbecues, your poolside potlucks and your cocktails on the patio. But this year, you’re ready to up the ante (we’re not knocking basic hot dogs and hamburgers, but a girl needs to eat off something other than plastic every once in a while). Our friends at Pier 1 are here to prove just how much of a difference a gorgeous tablescape can make for your summer party. Hint: Never underestimate the power of a good theme.

farmhouse tablescape pier 1



Your claim to fame is that you’ve just gone all-natural in your beauty routine and you wouldn’t dare buy a nonorganic cleaning product. So when it comes to setting up a proper brunch spread, the rustic angle seems fitting. Begin with a base—a woven table runner is a great place to start—and continue with serve ware that could easily be mistaken for antique. But the real key is to accent your table with greenery in a way that breaks up the brown. (How cool are those placemats?)

Get the Look

tropical tablescape pier 11



Make your next dinner party one for the books by homing in on this year’s favorite bold hue: pink. Saturate your table with plates in a hibiscus shade (a stacked setting adds instant elegance), tropical flower arrangements and fun flamingo-print detailing on both napkins and wine glasses. Rose-gold pineapple tumblers are the cherry on top.

Get the Look

garden party tablescape pier 12



Lately, you’ve been daydreaming (specifically during Spin class) about baking one of those trendy naked cakes and decorating the heck out of it with edible fresh flowers. A cake like that is reason enough to host a party, and if you ask us, you should build your table around your dessert. Go for splashy colors that mimic a rainbow of flowers, but keep the vibe elevated by anchoring the patterns with white accent pieces.

Get the Look


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10 Reasons to Live in Tacoma Instead of Seattle

10 reasons to Live in Tacoma Instead of Seattle

10 Reasons to Live in Tacoma Instead of Seattle


It’s easy to see why more and more young creatives, such as writers, musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs, are choosing to live in Tacoma over Seattle. You can get big city living for less with a striking built-in backdrop of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. This urban area offers a wealth of museums, performance spaces, and of course, tasty places to eat. There’s obviously a lot to love about this city, but we’ve narrowed it down to our 10 favorite things that make living in Tacoma special.


Mountains and house

Tacoma is truly a city for the outdoor adventurist. Hiking, biking, rock climbing, snowboarding, skiing, and sailing are all common hobbies of Tacoma residents. Sunrise and Paradise trails at Mount Rainier have some of the most stunning views a person can find in the Pacific Northwest. Seasoned Tacoma skiers make frequent visits to nearby Crystal Mountain, which is known for its wide variety of terrain. The Summit at Snoqualmie is popular among beginners and families, and is right off the main highway. White Pass is a great place to take the family for a weekend getaway because it’s low-key and has a hometown feel. Lake Tapps is also a great spot for wake boarding, boating, swimming, and has plenty of coves and inlets to keep things interesting. And when you need equipment, repairs, or expertise on anything outdoor, be sure to check out Sturtevant’s or Ski Mart.


Tacoma house

Your dollar goes much further in Tacoma than in Seattle, plain and simple. According to, the cost of living in Seattle is 25.9% higher than the state average. Meanwhile, the cost of living in Tacoma sits at a comfortable 0.9% less than the state average. While the renter/owner ratio is pretty much the same in both cities, owning your own place in Tacoma is much easier than in Seattle. Seattle’s median home price, approximately $441,000, is nearly double the median home price of Tacoma, an estimated $230,100.


colorful glass ceiling
Photo by Casey Lee

Did you know that the Pacific Northwest is largely responsible for the inception of the Studio Glass movement? You probably did if you’re from Tacoma. It doesn’t take long to realize glass art’s integral role in Tacoman culture. The Museum of Glass was started by Tacoma resident and influential glass artist, Dale Chihuly, and retired president of University of Puget Sound, Dr. Phil Phibbs, as a celebration of the city’s artistic identity. Today, visitors can tour the facility as well as watch artists at work in the world’s largest Hot Shop. But it doesn’t stop there! If you’re in Downtown Tacoma, you can take the 500-foot Chihuly Bridge of Glass to straight to the museum.


tacoma bridge
Photo by Chris Sawtelle

Speaking of bridges, if you haven’t seen this YouTube-famous bridge from the 40s, first watch this two-minute history lesson about it’s epic collapse. This bridge has since been replaced by Sturdy Gertie, but to physics professors and civil engineers everywhere, the original Galloping Gertie remains a textbook example of how not to build a bridge and perhaps Tacoma’s greatest contribution to our understanding and improvement of bridge construction. And if you’re still curious about Galloping Gertie, you can head to the Washington State History Museum in Downtown Tacoma to get the whole story.



ballet dancers
Photo by Chris Hays

If you want to see a show or concert of any sort, you needn’t look far in Tacoma. A trip to the Theater District in Downtown Tacoma puts a person within walking distance of numerous performance spaces and organizations including the Tacoma Opera and Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, which often perform in the gorgeous Rialto Theater. Jazzbones is a Tacoma staple that often books regional musicians like Big Wheel Stunt Show and Jeanlizabeth. Tacoma residents flock to Tacoma Comedy Club to take advantage of each night’s different specials and performances. Tacoma also hosts several music festivals throughout the year, including Tacoma Jazz and Blues Festival and Freedom Fair. Kids can even get involved with music by joining the Tacoma Youth Symphony.


fancy dinner

Like the stunning Mount Ranier, the restaurant landscape of Tacoma is vast, beautiful, and just waiting to be explored. Because Tacoma is an international waterfront city, you can bet that there is a wide array of delicious eats to try. And you really can’t go wrong with any of them. But if you’re looking for a place to start, we suggest checking out some of their seafood restaurants.

Duke’s Chowder House is obviously popular for their chowder, but also for their fresh Alaskan seafood. Steamers Seafood Cafe is also a good option, as their famous fish and chips come with a gorgeous view of Puget Sound. Tater tots is another dish that Tacoma just gets right. Dirty Oscar’s Annex has Parmesan stuffed tots that come with sun dried tomato ranch. Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, this restaurant is a must-visit. The best way to wash down any meal in Tacoma is with a local craft brew, like the hugely popular Odd Otter Brewing Company. Tacomans who like to make their own culinary creations enjoy frequent visits to the famous Tacoma Farmer’s Market for locally grown and produced goods.


coffee place
via Bluebeard Coffee Roasters

Like any true Pacific Northwesterners, Tacomans love their caffeine. And there’s no shortage of exceptional coffee shops here. Cosmonaut Coffee Co. has some of the most experienced baristas around. Blue Beard Roasters roast their own exquisite coffees and keep up a funky cafe in the Historic District. Valhalla Coffee roasts the best Viking themed coffees you’ll ever brew. And you haven’t been to Bertolinos for a late-night espresso, you really are missing out on all the coffee Tacoma has to offer. Seattle may be home to Starbucks, but no chain coffee shop can top the local roasters and brewers in Tacoma.


graphic on building
Photo by Jason Taellious

This city loves its art! It’s hard to turn a corner without coming across some impressive street art, an art studio, or a gallery. Thanks to the Tacoma Murals Project, 27 murals have been painted by local artists wanting to cover as much of their city in art as possible. Spaceworks Tacoma matches artists and creative entrepreneurs with spaces to practice their craft, creating a more vibrant city one empty storefront at a time. Amateurs and professionals alike can sharpen their skills at studios like Open Arts Studio.


glass structure
Photo by Casey Yee

Tacoma’s history runs deeper (or should we say spans farther) than the Galloping Gertie. It has been shaped by Native American tribes, the Gold Rush, seaside exploration and so much more. And you can learn all about it at Washington State History Museum. In fact, Tacoma has an entire museum district, where visitors and residents explore exhibits at the Tacoma Art Museum, LeMay – America’s Car Museum, Foss Waterway Seaport, and the Children’s Museum of Tacoma.


Photo by Rachel Samanyi

Literally. Though the Pacific Northwest is famous for its overcast climate and high annual rainfall, Tacoma enjoys on average 141 sunny days and 39 inches of precipitation a year – a climate similar to Seattle’s. But Tacoma finds something to celebrate every season of the year. In the Spring, it’s the Daffodil Festival. In the Summer, it’s Taste of Tacoma. With Fall comes Tacoma’s Fall Garden Festival, and Winter brings Zoolights, a family favorite that entails an evening of exploring Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium to see some of the most exquisite Christmas lights in the Pacific Northwest.


Photo by Andrew Albertson

Seattle is not only a quick 45-minute trip away, but it’s also an enjoyable place to visit. There’s plenty to see and do in the Emerald city if you want to go on a day or weekend trip. Visit the iconic Space Needle, take a walk down Pikes Place Market, or follow USA Today’s recommendations on how to experience a weekend trip to Seattle.


What is your favorite thing about living in Tacoma? Tell us in the comments below!

All images have either been provided by a listed organization or are licensed under the Creative Commo


5 Reasons Why Buying an Old House Is a Great Idea

5 Reasons Why Buying an Old House Is a Great Idea

| Jun 26, 2017

We understand the appeal of moving into a newly constructed home. After all, it’s hard not to be enticed by brand-new appliances, floors, and heating, cooling, and electrical systems. Plus, buying an old place that needs work can be intimidating, especially for those of us whose only brush with restoring a house has come from watching reruns of “Fixer Upper.”

However, home buyers can see all the beauty and potential in older houses. What some view as eyesores, others see as charm—four walls full of history that can’t be duplicated. Besides the nostalgia factor, an old house can be a smart purchase for the sake of your wallet.

Take a look at the top reasons why buying an old house might just be the best decision you’ll ever make.

1. Old homes are cheaper than new homes

What classifies as an older home? In general, if a home does not use or contain modern materials such as high-performance concrete, it qualifies as “old.” Normally, these homes would have been built before 1970.

Shelley Cluff, a real estate broker and owner of Park Place Homes, in Midland, MI, explains that an older home gives you substantially more bang for your buck.

“On average, a comparably sized new construction can sell for 10% to 20% more than an older, updated home,” she says. While newer homes might cost less to maintain, they are also built with different materials such as energy-efficient products that drive up the cost of building them and, by extension, the cost of buying them.

2. Old homes have better-quality construction

The saying “they don’t build ’em like they used to” is generally true. Established houses are built to last, and many aspects of the construction cannot be reproduced today. Older homes might be built with wood made from old-growth trees (trees that attained great age by not being significantly disturbed) and therefore more resistant to rot and warping.

Even the walls are likely different. In an older home they’re probably built with plaster and lathe, making them structurally stronger than the drywall construction of modern homes. These older materials also provide a better sound barrier and insulation.

3. Old homes are often in established locations

When choosing a neighborhood, home buyers weigh a number of factors—including the school district, crime rate, and walkability. If you’re looking at buying an old house, chances are it’s in a well-established, and probably stable, area. This is a good thing. 

4. Old homes have more character

See that mature oak tree towering over the front yard that took decades to reach such heights? You’re not going to get that kind of curb appeal from a new construction.

Some older homes have managed to maintain the amenities that are characteristic of the era it was built in—for example, original crown molding, herringbone-patterned hardwood floors, and built-ins.

While newer homes will reflect the trends of current times, they won’t satisfy other eclectic tastes. Victorian homes with authentic stained-glass windows or a midcentury sunken living room can’t be found in modern houses. While many designers do emulate these characteristics, you might prefer to go for the real thing.

5. Lot size tends to be larger with old homes

Newer homes might come with newer amenities, but on the outside (specifically in the backyard) things aren’t as remarkable. According to data from CoreLogic, new constructions tend to have a larger house with a smaller lot.

“The median size of a new home increased from 1,938 square feet in 1990 to 2,300 square feet in 2016, but lot sizes during this same period decreased from 8,250 square feet to 6,970 square feet.”

In an effort to keep the cost of new homes down and bring in more revenue, homebuilders have favored building larger homes on smaller lots. Why?

“When home prices appreciate at a fast pace, the land value rises even faster, which in turn drives the cost of homes higher,” according to CoreLogic.

So if a big backyard is on your list on nonnegotiables, you’re most likely to find that in an older home.

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Summer Dinner Parties Made Easy With a Simple Checklist

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Summer Dinner Parties Made Easy With a Simple Checklist


Who doesn’t love a good summer party with family and friends, lounging on a deck in the sunshine, enjoying your favorite cold beverage? I’ve been to many gatherings, for both business and pleasure, and they’ve all been stellar experiences. So what’s the secret to a memorable event? One of my friends loves throwing wine tasting parties; bring your favorite vintage, cover the label and sip away. Another organizes routine pastry parties. And another coordinates her efforts with a local café or diner to create the perfect party ambiance for her crew. I marvel at the results, and can’t help but wonder how much work went into the planning and prepping! Seriously; dinner parties are a bit like planning a small wedding.


If you just moved into a new home (congratulations!), maybe a housewarming party is the perfect way to introduce everyone to your humble abode. Whether it’s awesome conversation, delicious recipes or bright décor you want to share, a memorable summer dinner party is just a short checklist away.

  1. Be Our Guest
    Knowing who you want to invite is the first step. This could help determine when and where you plan your awesome event.
  2. Love Logistics
    Should you plan a 4th of July bash at home? Maybe after the holiday in your favorite local diner would be better? If you want most of your invitees to attend, consider your guest list, and plan accordingly.
  3. Design Your Theme
    Once you know when and where your shindig is going to take place, you can choose a theme. Whatever your style, simple and clean with pops of color and subtle flashiness will save your budget and retain your sanity; it’s easy to go crazy with decor, so do yourself a favor!
  4. Refreshments, Please
    Bring out the BBQ and beer for a casual gathering in the backyard, or go all out with elaborate dishes served as three-course meals at your formal table. Not a fan of preparing lots of food? Encourage guests to bring their favorite dish to create a smorgasbord of food. Don’t forget the dessert! I seldom eat dessert at a restaurant, but it’s a must at any dinner party.
  5. Fun & Games
    Is your crowd up for recreation and games? Maybe badminton or croquet is the perfect option, or perhaps a more relaxed board game is a good choice? Have some entertainment lined up! Sure, the conversation may take over and you might never get to your first round of Monopoly, but at least you’ll be prepared.
  6. Make It Personal
    Create simple place cards (and party favors) for each guest. This little step goes a long way to a successful welcome when your guests arrive.
  7. Stay Cool
    As a host, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially during the party. Here are some tips to help you keep calm and party on (because you should enjoy it too).

    • Have hors d’oeuvres ready before any guests arrive. If people come hungry (and they often do, so they can indulge), they’ll have something to snack on.
    • Delegate simple jobs to party copilots. If a close friend or family member is up for it, reach out to them for assistance setting the table, refilling drinks, etc.
    • Leave dirty dishes for later. If you’re concerned about the huge mess on the dining room table, take your dessert and coffee to another room or outside. Guests will admire your chill attitude.

At the end of the day (evening, rather), have fun with your guests and don’t take it too seriously! Proper planning ahead of time should ensure a smooth, lovely, and fun party everyone will love.



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